Using produce from their own dairy herds, The Dunne Family from Killowen Farm and the Coopers from Featherbed Farm are creating award-winning yogurt and ice cream on their Wexford farms.
In the July/August issue of Irish Country Magazine, Pauline Dunne from Killowen Farm and Simon Cooper from Featherbed Ice Cream share the journey of their thriving food businesses. This article is brought to you by Dunnes Stores.
Nestled in the foothills of the Blackstairs Mountains on the outskirts of Courtnacuddy in Co Wexford resides Killowen dairy farm. With a history stemming back two centuries, the traditional dairy farm produces milk from its herd of Friesian cows, and in 2004 the family decided to expand their business by making their own yogurt.
A family-run operation, with Nicholas Dunne running the farm and his sister Pauline Dunne working as sales manager at Killowen Farm, over the past 15 years they’ve developed their yogurt into an award-winning product that can be found in some of the most prestigious hotels in the world including the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, as well as on the first-class breakfast menu aboard Emirates flights.
Pauline says that the wellbeing of the dairy herd is the key to producing their quality yogurt; the milk produced on the farm is used to make all of the products in their range: “The milk comes from the parlour into the tanks, we pasteurise it, it’s homogenised, we add our cultures and that’s it. It’s very simple, we leave the yogurt overnight, it’s packed the next day, we chill it and then it goes out to the stores,” says Pauline.
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The award-winning products also received praise from Dunnes Stores, who in 2012 asked Killowen Farm to create a line of yogurts for their Simply Better range. “For us it’s about getting the opportunity to tell people that it’s made in Wexford, that it’s produced on the farm and the fruit is locally sourced,” explains Pauline.
Pauline and Nicholas have been working very closely with the Simply Better team over the last seven years and as a result have developed strong relationships with other Irish producers. “We worked together sourcing local ingredients, for example the Triple Berry Yogurt includes local strawberries, raspberries and blackberries and we also use rhubarb from Kehoe’s Farm in Enniscorthy which goes into the Wexford Rhubarb Yogurt. We get blackcurrants from Des Jeffares, another Wexford producer, and the Tulameen raspberries come from Clarke’s Fresh Fruit Farm in Co Meath.”
Killowen Farm and their team of thirty dedicated staff, have won countless awards for their yogurt products and they attribute their success to the dedication of both teams: “The Great Taste and Blas na hÉireann awards over the years are a testament to the quality of the yogurt, the local fruit and the commitment that both Simply Better and Killowen have given to our Simply Better yogurts.”
Starting off with less than a handful of products, the Killowen Farm range for Simply Better has gone from strength to strength, and today they have nearly tripled the range. The yogurts don’t contain any additives, colourings, flavourings, preservatives and the products are gluten-free. “We’ve grown year on year with the Simply Better yogurts and it’s phenomenal, from having five Simply Better yogurts to having fourteen products on the shelf,” says Pauline, “it’s been a great success.”
CREAM OF THE CROP
Another Wexford success that can attribute the quality of their delicious ice cream to their own herd of dairy cows, are brothers Simon and Paul Cooper of Featherbed Farm. They’ve been making artisan ice cream on their family farm in Oylegate for over a decade. As one of the newest Simply Better producers, the Cooper family are dedicated to bringing Wexford farmhouse ice cream to Irish homes.
Combining Simon’s skills as a pastry chef with Paul’s knowledge of the dairy farm, the pair joined forces to set up their business in 2009. “I’m a trained chef and I’ve been in the catering industry for about twenty years, ten of which would have been at Featherbed Farm,” says Simon. “Paul is a dairy farmer and we both wanted to work together.”
Having travelled to Italy to source machinery and gain an insight into the industry, the brothers built a production unit on their family farm in order to use the resources and ingredients available to them.
“Paul will milk the cows at 6am and sometimes by that evening the ice cream will be in restaurants, that’s how quick it is. One of the biggest reasons why we wanted to start making ice cream was because it means we are making the most out of the local ingredients we have here on the farm.”
Featherbed Farm is one of the newest producers to the Simply Better range in Dunnes Stores, and the Cooper family share the same ethos and values as Simply Better – creating wholesome food using great quality Irish produce: “It was a really good fit from the get-go. The brief was that Simply Better wanted the ice cream to be as if you were making it at home. They wanted the ingredients list to be as small as possible and to include stuff that you would have in your kitchen cupboard.”
The Simply Better Wexford Farmhouse Ice Cream range has three flavours, Rum and Raisin, Salted Caramel and Honeycomb and the classic, Vanilla, with all of the ice creams being made on site using the milk from their own dairy herd. “We developed a new base mix which is a completely new ice cream made especially for Dunnes. For the salted caramel and honeycomb we use free-range egg yolks, Irish cream and sugar. We make our own salted caramel on site so there are no preservatives and then we buy in the Irish honeycomb pieces.
“The rum and raisin is made with real raisins that are soaked overnight in good quality dark Jamaican rum to infuse the flavour and then blended with our milk and free-range egg yolks to make a custard base. The freerange eggs are from O’Eggs in Co Meath; everywhere it is possible, we use Irish produce.”
The Simply Better collaboration is the first big retailer operation that Featherbed Farm have taken on and the brothers are loving working with the team and are excited to see what the future holds. “It’s fantastic to see how they work and how it all operates,” says Simon. “It’s a little bit different and on a larger scale than anything we’ve done before, but the product we make for Simply Better is exactly the way we’d make it in our farm shop in Wexford.”
This article is brought to you by Dunnes Stores.